They have been saying this for a week now. Round the clock, on news channels, in the cities and villages of Pakistan and India, in the newspapers on both sides of the border. That the March 30th semifinal between the two countries is war minus the shooting. And they have been proved wrong by the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik.
He has warned Shahid Afridi and boys on match fixing. He began by saying that we love our cricketers, but if they indulge in match fixing, spot fixing or anything similar, they will be punished. And then he dropped the bombshell: Our intelligence is monitoring the players.
The good, sincere boy that Afridi is, he has taken this warning very seriously. Immediately after the minister's statement he called a team meeting and conveyed the minister's sentiment to his boys. And then, with the help of coach and the manager, he spelt out the agenda for March 30th.
It was agreed that nothing in this match will be fixed. Not the 11, not the batting spots, the number of overs that the bowlers may bowl, the fielding positions, nothing. All 15 players will take the field, it was agreed. And, for good measure, anyone from the stands can join in and play against Dhoni and his boys. The only qualification would be: Before you enter the field, you must show your Pakistan passport to the umpire.
The umpires have been spoken to, an emergency meeting of ICC was called in, modalities discussed—not decided, mind you, since nothing is to be fixed. Of course, the minister himself is not leaving anything to chance. He is traveling with the Pakistan Prime Minister to watch the game. Talk of big brother watching.
The Indian squad has been apprised of the latest developments and Dhoni, Sachin and others are game for it. As Sachin said—we have always played like this at Shivaji Park, and Dhoni agreed, saying that in Ranchi, his hometown, cricket was always about "the more the merrier."
I always knew that this was going to be a great game of cricket.